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Full text of "NightRider"

188

stomach felt cold and clotted, and at the same time the
solid mass of the heat bore down on his body like the weight
of water on a diver at great depth, a weight pressing surely
and relentlessly at every point. He thought that he should
not have taken that last drink.

The negro brought out the mare.

" Gitten tow'ds home early, ain't you, Mister Perse?"

" Hell, no," he said, hearing his own sharp, irritable tone,
like the tone of a stranger, and experiencing an access of
shame that, perversely, fanned the irritation so that he
snapped his jaws shut and dug his heels into the mare's
flanks. She plunged as if stung by a fly, and then he found
himself out of the shadow of the stable and in the sudden,
vibrating glare of the afternoon.

He rode straight out of town, out the Murray Mill Pike.

He crossed the little wooden bridge over the branch, which
was stagnant now and edged with a greenish, copperish scum,
and drew rein even with the clump of cedar. There the buck-
berry bushes were, and some elder and sumac. The white
dust from the road powdered the leaves of the bushes. It was
this time of year, and this kind of season, dry like this with
the dust accumulating undisturbed on the motionless leaves
by the roadside, when Duffy had been killed. When the
body fell, the white dust would have received it like a cushion,
breaking the weight of the fall, and puffing out in a small,
white cloud from the impact. The dust would have sucked
up, instantly, whatever blood drained from the wounds.
Then the body had been dragged off the road into the buck-
berry bushes. The murderer would have scraped his foot
over the spot where the blood had drained from the wounds
into the dust. He would have looked up and down the road,
quickly, and then he would have scraped his foot, almost
automatically, over the spot. He would have done that.

Standing beside the mare at the edge of the road, Mr.
Miinn stared down at the ground, as though some trace
might remain. There was nothing, only the white dust. He
mounted, and rode on.